What it's like to drive Mini's ALL4 Racing Dakar-winning car - Mini ALL4 Racing Dakar rally car - page 3

evo braves the deserts of Dubai to experience just a fraction of the heat and chaos of the Dakar rally

It’ll certainly oversteer – a trait demonstrated in more vivid detail when I sit shotgun with Dakar expert Nani Roma later in the day – but through the deep sand its attitude once again varies according to ruts. On fairly flat ground, you have several choices – a dab of the heavy brake pedal or flick of the wheel will send the car sideways, but more throttle and a quarter-turn of lock is needed in the soft sand to provoke a slide.

A few other aspects stand out for someone entirely new to this sort of vehicle. One is the constant punishment of the rough surface. Four-wheel drive vehicles are restricted to half the suspension travel of two-wheel drive buggies on the Dakar. Some bumps are enough to provoke involuntary ‘oof’ noises. Others send my helmeted head pinballing between the head restraints on the Recaro seat.

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The other is restricted movement. This will be familiar to anyone who has used a four- or five-point harness before, but it’s more of a problem when you’re sitting relatively low, behind a relatively high bonnet and plenty of ground clearance. Cresting some hills becomes an act of faith rather than judgement, with little chance to shuffle in your seat for a better view.

All too soon, we rejoin the gravel access road that led me to the start of the stage. It strikes me that my biggest concern – the heat – has gone unnoticed. It’s unlikely this would be the case on the full Dakar event, where temperatures can be greater even than the deserts of Dubai.

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Add in the constant punishment and the length of each day, and fatigue also becomes a factor. As does altitude, when competitors traverse the Atacama desert in Chile. Al-Attiyah explains in graphic detail – over dinner – the nausea of altitude sickness he suffered when he failed to take the drugs used to combat it.

X-Raid’s ALL4 Racing vehicle is remarkably civil. In contrast, the conditions its drivers compete in couldn’t be further removed from civility.

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